Big Changes at Public Library of Science Help Prior Art Searchers

Public Library of Science  (PLOS) is a publisher of seven peer-reviewed and open-access journals which users can search through an online portal that has recently undergone some major renovations. I first looked at the PLOS network back in April 2012, and I concluded that PLOS is another useful non-patent literature resource that professional patent searchers can utilize during an extensive prior art search, especially in the biomedical field. Since April 2012, the PLOS portal has seen some big changes to the appearance, search, and navigation features of the site, including a makeover to the visual appearance of the network in July 2012 and a redesign of all PLOS journals in December 2012. Herve Basset of the Science Intelligence and InfoPros blog recently announced the December 2012 redesign of the PLOS network, so I decided to jump over to the portal and take a look at the updated search and navigation options, including new metrics data and alert options for registered users.

Read on for an overview of recent changes implemented to enhance the usability, access to key information, and navigation on the PLOS network!

Visual Redesign – July 2012

During the summer of 2012, the Public Library of Science made some minor visual changes to the design of the site logo, name, and color scheme.  According to an announcement by David Knutson on The Official PLOS Blog, the following updates were implemented:

  • Simplification of the globe logo – made it scalable and modernized the typeface.
  • Distinctive accent colors given to journals organized by subject area.
  • Capitalization of “PLOS.”
Redesigned long, font, and color schemes for various PLOS journals.

Redesigned logo and color schemes for various PLOS journals.

Search and Navigation Redesign – December 2012

More extensive search and navigation updates were added to all PLOS journals in December 2012, close to the organization’s 10th anniversary.  An announcement on the PLOS Blog  by Liz Allen outlines the recent changes:

  • More prominent figures – Featured throughout articles and search so that you can quickly determine if an article is relevant. Users can access a “Figures” hit list that displays a representative image from the article. Users can also select to view the full versions of all figures in a pop-up window (the “abstract and figure viewer” described below), which allows users to scroll through all figures in the article and download the images as PPT, PNG, or TIFF files. In the full record view, the images are displayed in thumbnail versions at the top of the page.
The "Figures" hit list, with the option to go directly to the abstract, figures viewer, full record view, etc.

The “Figures” hit list, with thumbnail images and  options to go directly to the abstract, figures viewer, full record view, etc.

  • Enhanced Discovery – Search now reflects new expanded taxonomy of subject categories.
Select to filter by any of the subject areas below the quick search form.

Select to filter by any of the subject areas below the quick search form.

  • Metrics Signposts – Sub-sets of ALM data, provide at-a-glance measures of article reach and impact. In the hit list, scroll over number of views (HTML, PDF, XML, and grand total), citations (on Scopus, PubMed, Web of Science, CrossRef, etc.), and bookmarks (CiteULike). Full record view shows information in the upper right corner about number of views, citations, and academic bookmarks. Users can also select the Metrics tab to view detailed article usage, citation, social network sharing, blog/media coverage, and reader comments data.
The Metrics tab in the full record view.

The Metrics tab in the full record view.

  • Custom Saved Search – Log in, enter your keywords and save, then receive new content that precisely meets your interests via email. Select the “Search Alert” option in the hit list to save a search, and define whether the email alert will be sent on a weekly or monthly basis.
Create an alert from a saved search.

Create an alert from a saved search.

  • Author data – clear presentation of affiliations/attribution for each author as well as grouped by institution. Select the “About Authors” tab in full record view to display the author affiliations, information for correspondence with authors, competing interests, and author contributions.  Select an author name below the title to display the author affiliation and correspondence information.
View author data by selecting the name or viewing information under the Authors tab.

View author data by selecting the name or viewing information under the Authors tab.

  • Abstract and Figure viewer – Providing new ways for you to get around and find what matters. Users can open this viewer directly from the “Figures” hit list by selecting the “Figures” or “Abstract” option when scrolling over each result, or the viewer can be opened by selecting a thumbnail image in the full record view.
The Figures viewer displays thumbnails of all available figures, as well as links to download the current image.

The Figures viewer displays thumbnails of all available figures, as well as links to download the current image.

  • Faster navigation – Persistent (so you never get lost) and floating (follows you down the page). The left side-menu of the full record view follows the user as they scroll, so they can always access all sections of the articles automatically.
The floating side-menu in the full record view.

The floating side-menu in the full record view.

  • Clearer Tabs – Easier to see and use, providing enriched article information.

The announcement also links to this brief video that illustrates the new search and navigation options on PLOS.

 

Conclusion

The visual redesign of the site in July had little impact on the search and navigation features for the interface, but the December updates added some big improvements to the user experience.  The video which describes the new PLOS features states that “based on user opinions, we focused on three things: usability, access to key information, and navigation.”  PLOS certainly made the navigation process and general usability of the network much simpler through the Figures hit list and the clearly labeled tabs.  The focus on image display is particularly useful for prior art searchers, who may be able to more easily identify relevant results by skimming thumbnail images or quickly browsing through all available figures.  Although the metrics tools may not be particularly useful to patent searchers, they will be a handy reference tool for researchers trying to determine the overall impact of an article.

What do you think of the new PLOS design?  Let us know in the comments!

 

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This post was contributed by Joelle Mornini. The Intellogist blog is provided for free by Intellogist’s parent company Landon IP, a major provider of patent searches, trademark searches, technical translations, and information retrieval services.

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